Week starting 26th September, 1999:
Toyota's Plans Coalesce
With the announcement that Toyota are pulling out of rallying, a number of things are falling into place concerning their entry into Formula One...
The company has been talking to Minardi, Sauber and Benetton about different possibilities for getting a team on the grid. At this point in time, they are clearly intent on negotiating an engine deal with Minardi or Sauber, essentially getting their development program up to speed ahead of a full team entry. They are targetting 2001 for this.
In 2002, it's speculated that Toyota will introduce their own, complete team. They have not ruled out taking over any of the above mentioned teams. The intention is to be competitive by 2004, with the aim of taking dual CART and Formula One championships.
Damon Ploughs On
With Nick Heidfeld unwilling to compromise his entry into Formula One, and Damon Hill wishing to be paid whether he drives or not, it seems he will be driving for the last two Grand Prix after all.
Nick Heidfeld has expressed an interest in not driving a Grand Prix this year, as he feels he would be in the car with insufficiant familiarity to do himself justice. Accordingly, barring accidents or emergency, his debut will be next year.
This leaves Jarno Trulli unavailable to drive for Jordan; so, if Damon pursued an early retirement, Jos Verstappen would be expected to stand in for him.
It's all gone quiet... on tyres
Rumours that slick tyres are due to return have resurfaced. It seems the FIA are considering a number of changes to the cars for the 2001 season - though nothing is certain at this time.
Having listened to recommendations from the drivers, most of the points raised were dismissed as inadequate or impracticle, but it seems the FIA is researching an option for the 2001 or 2002 season. If tests show the expected results, you can expect the following changes:
- Single element front wings;
- dual/Triple element rear wings;
- maximum "plan" area;
- increased frontal area (wider tyres);
- banning of "flip ups" on rear tyres; and
- a return to slick tyres
Panis to Mercedes!
With Panis unable to find a competitive drive in Formula One, the Frenchman has been talking to Mercedes concerning a chance to drive for them in the German Touring Car series.
Discussions between McLaren, Mercedes, Didier Cotton and Keke Rosberg (Panis' managers) have revolved around the Touring Car series, and the possibility of a test drive for McLaren, leading to a full time test and reserve driver role in 2000... filling the spot vacated by Nick Heidfeld, who (ironically) will be driving for Prost next year.
Panis is known to be keen on remaining in Formula One, and has been talking to Arrows; but the potential of a drive for McLaren could curtail those discussions.
Major Moves Afoot
With Nicola Foulston of Brands Hatch Leisure finding it difficult to gain planning permission for the proposed changes to Brands Hatch, and Silverstone firmly rejecting her offer to lease the site from them, it seems there are plans afoot to cover the possibility she does not have a track available in the UK.
Speculation around her involvement in a number of tracks in the Far East has led to the belief that the British Grand Prix could be held far from home when Silverstone's contract expires. There were rumours that Kyalami - the South African track, which is now licensed to hold Formula One events again - was being pursued by Foulston earlier this year. Those rumours are running the rounds again, in the belief that planning permission will not forthcoming from the Kent County Council.
Obviously, so far from home, the name "British Grand Prix" would be inappropriate: currently, it's beign suggested that the name would become the "BHL
GP" of the new hosting nation...
At present, the main players in the game are not commenting, which is allowing the speculation to continue. Foulston is still expecting Kent County Council's approval of the request for planning permission, and that would stop it for once and all.
It's not in the slightest surprising the find that the Stewart-Ford team has been revitalised with their maiden win last weekend.
Recent form has seen the team struggle to maintain it's early season form, as resources are diverted by the Jaguar project for next year, even without the unsettlement that comes with any company's change of management. However, the win from fourteenth on the grid has sparked a new energy in the team, and signs of commitment to the remainder of the 1999 challenge.
It's too late for much to change in the last couple of Grand Prix, but the new spirit has led to high optimism that some components for the 2000 car can be included in the remaining development program for this year. It would have the additional benefit of generating race time information on the performance of those parts for next year!
For Malaysia, it's speculated the team will be updating the front and rear wings, and the last engine update could be available for qualifying there too.
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Review of Europe 1999
Tears all round...
by David Cunliffe
At Monza two weeks ago, Mika Hakkinen cried in the woods after throwing away the race. At the Nürburgring, there were tears all over the place. Mika wasn't too happy again after only scoring two points, but he probably shed a few tears of relief as all the other main protagonists in the title race failed to score at all. There were undoubtedly tears of rage and frustration for Ferrari after the most farcical pitstop for many a year cost Irvine several places and valuable points.
But most of all, there were tears of joy at Stewart-Ford, and in the eyes of Johnny Herbert fans everywhere, as the luck of the unluckiest man in F1 changed. The plucky Brit brought the Scottish team its first and, as it has two races left before becoming Jaguar, perhaps only victory. Team-mate Barrichello came home a fighting third behind the Prost-Peugeot of Jarno Trulli, almost clinching a historic 1-2 for his team. The last point was claimed by Marc Gene for Minardi, their first points-scoring finish for several years.
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